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“Victor Berger is Indicted Foe of America,” New York Tribune, March 10, 1918

In 1919 Representative Victor L. Berger of Wisconsin, a German American and the first Socialist member of Congress, was convicted of violating the Espionage Act for his public antiwar statements. Though Berger’s district elected him while he was under indictment, the House voted overwhelmingly to deny him his seat, 311–1, on November 10, 1919.

Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress

Victor Berger is Indicted Foe of America

The Espionage and Sedition Acts

Two months after the United States entered World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act, making it a crime to convey information that could interfere with military efforts to defeat Germany and the Axis powers. In 1918 Congress added a new provision, known as the Sedition Act, which prohibited the public use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States, its military, or its flag. Congress repealed the Sedition Act in 1920, but portions of the Espionage Act remain in effect today.

When this country made its decision and went into this war, it was the duty of every American citizen to loyally support the Government of the United States in the prosecution of the war.

Representative Frederick W. Dallinger of Massachusetts, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, November 10, 1919